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FEC Will Not Allow Bitcoin Campaign Contributions

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the end-the-bitfed dept.

Bitcoin 49

First time accepted submitter memnock writes "ABC new reports: 'Political organizations can't accept contributions in the form of bitcoins, at least for now, The Federal Election Commission said Thursday. The commission passed on a request by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee, to use the digital currency. That group had asked the FEC recently whether it could accept bitcoins, how it could spend them and how donors must report those contributions. It was not immediately clear whether the same ruling would apply to individual political candidates.' Slashdot reported earlier this week that other federal agencies have taken positions that may recognize or regulate the currency."

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sure they can. (3, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45500961)

through a provider that converts them for cash and gives that cash and provided the contributor states his name(presumably this is a condition for these donations in usa?).

that's how just about any site selling something for bitcoin operates anyways - the site receives dollars or euros from the payment processor.. the site never sees the bitcoin.

Re:sure they can. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501105)

And just how do you verify who is the actual sender? How do you know it's not a foreign campaign donation? Or above the legal limit?

We already have bought and sold pseudo politicians running the country. This doesn't make it better.

Re:sure they can. (3, Interesting)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#45501203)

Actually, I think accepting bitcoins for campaign donations would make it much better. Bitcoins are pseudonymous at best, they are not cryptographically anonymous. And the global transaction log shows exactly which wallets were involved, every step of the way. Track the wallet, track the campaign cash.

Sarah Meiklejohn is a researcher who was able to trace the bitcoins used for a marijuana purchase on the Silk Road. https://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2299 [ucsd.edu]

I'm all for allowing people to make mistakes in covering up their illicit activities.

Re:sure they can. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501299)

But tying the wallets to certain individuals is what proves difficult.

Re:sure they can. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45502139)

But tying the wallets to certain individuals is what proves difficult.

If only string theory weren't so slippery.

Re:sure they can. (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45501323)

how? you trust that they asked. how do you verify it with cheque or cash in hand? or above the limits? well duh using the same as any other way. the point being its all a trust based system to begin with. ..or are they only allowed to do them via cash-in-hand with in id in another hand while an elections official checks the id? I really doubt that.

Re:sure they can. (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#45501365)

It's not quite like that. The FEC governs how elections are run here down to how campaign workers can spend their time. Due to our first amendment (which is a great amendment, don't get me wrong) anyone can pretty much give anything to a candidate. This combined with our de facto 2 party system (which is protected by the 2 parties, not the constitution) sets up the perfect pay-for-play political system. Organizations give money to candidates and expect results... and usually get them. The our media which is already reeling from financial loses to the internet gets their largest revenue from elections and political ads. The candidates spend so much money on a single campaign now that anyone not willing to except large donations with strings, has absolutely no chance of even showing up on the ballot much less getting elected. The only way they can even get on local news stations is to make statements so outlandish that the media has to put them on.

I suspect that this decision will be challenged in court and reversed based on the 1st amendment and the fact that the rest of the fed seems to be accepting it as a legit currency. Our only real hope for reform in this country is that the 2 parties eventually screw up so badly that the general populace loses faith in both them and the media that supports them. But I'm not holding my breath.

Re:sure they can. (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45501473)

I suspect that this decision will be challenged in court and reversed based on the 1st amendment

Why would it be? The holder of Bitcoins can always convert them to dollars and then donate the dollars. The restriction is not a serious restriction of any freedoms.

and the fact that the rest of the fed seems to be accepting it as a legit currency

I don't see that. They're basically treating Bitcoins like they would anything you can buy and sell. And if you make a profit, you pay taxes on the profit in US dollars not Bitcoins.

Re: sure they can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501861)

It is true, many VERY well heeled people can through many separate entities "deliver" pretty much without limitation for candidates with implicit strings attached, but as individuals, no, even for them, direct contributions are strictly limited, which is, short of strong social connection, the only way in hell 99.9% of the population has a prayer of being on the monetary radar of any individual candidate. That, at best, will get you rubbing elbows at cocktail parties, but you might was well think that picture of you shaking hands with Goofy and Snow White from Disney meant you were rolling with Michael Eisner.

The real limitless influence is economic extortion. Nice district you have there, congressman. It'd be a shame if we laid-off all your constituents and moved across the river. Now about those cushy DoD contracts, subsidies and tax exemptions. Feel free to offset them with this welfare reduction bill we've had pre-written for you.

Re:sure they can. (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#45501943)

The two party system is protected by “First Past the Post” method. 2 parties is the only stable system according to game theory. It further suggests that the 2 parties will be center left and center right.

Re:sure they can. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#45502221)

provided the contributor states his name(presumably this is a condition for these donations in usa?)

It is not a condition for donations in the US, and that's what the big fight is about. There are those that would like to remove all transparency and accountability from political donations. This way, money can be given in limitless amounts without anyone knowing where that money came from.

Everything in a free society works better when there is transparency when it comes to governance. We've gotten so far away from that in the US that we've created a very dangerous situation for ourselves. The money behind candidates and issues is laundered, more and more details of the basic workings of government are classified, there are even secret laws, secret courts.

The only way I can see for turning this around is to create transparency when it comes to who's providing the funding for actors in the political realm.

Re:sure they can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45503117)

Fortunately greater transparency in government was a platform issue of our current Prez. Oh, wait. Nevah mind.

unless... (3, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#45500973)

What if they're from a corporations? I heard they're allowed to buy elections now so who cares if it's variable worth, probably laundered money?

Re:unless... (5, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45501057)

Now, now - stop exaggerating. Corporations aren't allowed to simply buy elections. There is an approved bidding process. Candidates are shown off like prized cattle, and the corporations have to attend the auction, make their bids, then wait for election day to find whether their bids were successful. One does NOT simply waltz in, choose his candidate, and purchase him!

Re: unless... (4, Insightful)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | about a year ago | (#45501071)

A corp doesn't have to choose - in close campaigns the big ones donate to both so they're owed regardless of the outcome

Re:unless... (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year ago | (#45501173)

Now, now - stop exaggerating. Corporations aren't allowed to simply buy elections. There is an approved bidding process. Candidates are shown off like prized cattle, and the corporations have to attend the auction, make their bids, then wait for election day to find whether their bids were successful. One does NOT simply waltz in, choose his candidate, and purchase him!

It is more like a whore house by proxy.
Candidates are preened, paraded, even seduced...
but it's the constituents that get screwed...

Re:unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501253)

BS. A company can buy time not just for their guys but to block another candidate. They buy PIs who spend man-months digging up dirt (real or imagined), and they go to lengths like even coercing people in the opposite candidate's campaign. In fact, a candidate can be persuaded not to run by a DA arresting family members.

Since SCOTUS allows for anonymous foreign contributions without regulation to elections, the US is the first country in history whose sovereignity is now handed over to the highest bidder.

Re:unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45506661)

Wait, are you sure about this. I heard from my friends that that's all mumbo jumbo because that's too complicated for people to do. Companies could never form a plan and execute on it. In fact all ground is level. Everything is fair and politicians make all choices based on how good it is for their constituents. And there are no poor people everyone is happy. The government can be trusted and anyone who doesn't believe that must be a communist.

in other news they are also not accepting socks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501049)

Seriously, this is non news. If people want to donate with btc, they can convert to USD first, just like anything else.

This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501055)

With BitCoin nearing $1000 per coin, the currency is making people, even the old school bankers sit up and take notice.

It is now a mature currency, now more stable than the Euro, the dollar, the yuan, and any others. A currency that will not inflate over time now that it requires arrays of ASICs to have any success at mining. The days of it losing half its value in a few hours are over.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501127)

If it moves from 200 to 1000 over a few weeks, it's not stable, nor mature.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501243)

LOL, exactly.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501563)

Bitcoin is like Apple. It goes up, but like pouring food coloring into water, it is not going to shrink with usage anytime soon. It is too big for its value to go down by any substantial amounts now that it is used by China and is the primary source of transactions for ransomware.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501333)

Any currency that moves more than a few percent per year is not stable.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45501381)

how can it's value go up and down 5x and be more stable than euro, dollar or yuan? or are you implying that bitcoins value is stable while these world currencies moved up and down?

probably the biggest value raiser for the time being is actually using it for moving currency out of china, which is a bitch.

Re:This is because BitCoin's value is relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501771)

Is that you Gordon? You've eliminated boom and bust again?

Money is free speech! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | about a year ago | (#45501097)

If you can't anonymously donate to a political campaign, your voice can't be heard!

Um, wait . . .

Re:Money is free speech! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about a year ago | (#45501431)

What is the umm wait about? There are plenty if instances that you might want your voice heard but not recognized as your voice. This could be from fears of reprecussion in your job, home life, or even personal safety. There could be lots of reasons where the lack of anonimity silences your voice.

Re:Money is free speech! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501447)

Well big media players own the megaphones.

Some parties get to use them for free while others must pay for commercials.

Practically, some voices can't be heard if they can't even buy TV time.

Yikes, please don't do this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501121)

Never say "No." Say "But, if.." or "Yes, but.." This move by the FEC is just going to create a black market. They act like they're trying to protect the integrity of elections, but the effect will be the opposite. It's just like how drug prohibition creates criminal cartels. Now we're going to have bitcoin-funded ads of unknown attribution since the advertiser won't be legally allowed to say who they are.

Well then.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501129)

No taxation without representation!

Feds can keep their grubby little hands off of bitcoin completely.

Brilliant Move! (2)

Cajun Hell (725246) | about a year ago | (#45501153)

People: "FEC, how should we report these transactions?"

FEC: "We will punish you, if you report these transactions."

People: "Ok, we won't report these transactions."

Problem solved.

Re:Brilliant Move! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#45501339)

Yeah, plus individual politicians are already accepting Bitcoin donations and have been since at least the 2012 elections. The FEC probably recognizes that getting cows back into the barn is a tricky job so they didn't touch it.

Re:Brilliant Move! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45504415)

Is there any financial law this wouldn't hold for?
Yes, you will only get punished for breaking the law if they find out. For some reason you seem to be assuming that the only way they'll find out is if you report it yourself.

Kill by regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501221)

Our overlords don't want bitcoin, simply because it is not "their" currency, this would shift balance from the financial powers which are now in power. However, if they'd declare it downright illegal, this would expose their intend to kill it, which is bad pr. Instead what we'll see is regulation "to protect the people" from the evil dangers of bitcoins, such as money-laundering, criminals and non-regulated bitcoin to classic currency converters. In reality these regulations will be aimed to smother it slowly to death while regaining control.

Re:Kill by regulation (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45501607)

However, if they'd declare it downright illegal, this would expose their intend to kill it, which is bad pr.

It wouldn't be bad PR for the government since almost no one cares about Bitcoins in the first place. It might even be good PR because it could play to the people who support things like the illegalization of recreational drugs and "being tough on crime". That second group is probably a few orders of magnitude more numerous in the US than Bitcoin users.

I'm a supporter of Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501261)

But even I'm happy with this decision. The fewer ways these people have to get campaign contributions the better I say. Lock it all down.

wrong approach (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year ago | (#45501399)

i get what they are trying to do, stop jillionaires from dumping money anonymously into campaigns. here's a better idea: stop allowing political orgs from accepting donations. if someone is running a campaign, they should be given a fixed amount of money and a fixed date to begin campaigns. i really dont want to hear about who is running for president two years before hand.

note: i said it was a better idea, not that politicians rather die than let this happen.

The bottom line is that Slashdot SUCKS. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501415)

Slashdot has "become" (well, for about 10+ years now) a completely stale community. Obviously it's full of retirees who are stuck in the past, welfare cases, and people who just plain got nothing better to do. You can tell the majority of active posters here are do-nothing losers. Just look at the same imbeciles pushing the exact same manure in every article. Most of the time the main discussions aren't even connected with the article, thanks to inflammatory troglodytes immediately dragging things off-topic. There's just page after page of delirious nonsense by idiots who seem to be here posting every hour of day and night.

Re:The bottom line is that Slashdot SUCKS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45504693)

And this is the one place you have to go on a beautiful Saturday morning. Welcome home, Mr. Coward.

Well then ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#45501427)

... we''l jut fall back the the tried and trusted suitcases full of $100 bills.

Re:Well then ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45522037)

... we'll just fall back on the tried and trusted suitcases full of $100 bills.

At one point the president of Korea started seriously going after corruption by cracking down on the ability of their corrupt politicians to hide their illicit funds in banks. This approach was surprisingly successful, at least to the extent of forcing the crooked money to be moved out of bank accounts that the government had access to, then hidden in various out-of-the-way buildings under concealed ownership, with some of these buildings having row after row of floor-to-ceiling stacks of shoeboxes filled with accumulated bribe money.

One day, the modern Korean equivalent of a Robin Hood type criminal decided to start finding and robbing these buildings ...

Unfortunately, the top US politicians and the leaders of the two big political parties have long since found more sophisticated ways to hide their illicit funds. The amounts of money involved are so large that the Supreme Court and other Federal Courts simply can't be trusted to keep the government honest (especially given that they're "selected" by those same corrupt politicians), and all kinds of clever scams have been developed to hide the money: no shoeboxes needed here.

There's good reason to suppose that nobody in the past 50+ years has been or will ever be appointed to the top USA judicial positions if that person is somebody that will make waves regarding the day-to-day corruption at the high levels of government, particularly corruption associated with so-called "campaign finance".

This situation, of course, invalidates all the other decisions these judges make -- after all, how can we trust anybody willing to look the other way when corruption is involved? -- which probably has a lot to do with the disaster of a legal system the USA is currently stuck with. This has obvious implications for the various issues involving intellectual property law that are so frequently discussed on this forum (such as patent law, or the death of Aaron Schwartz), but it also has implications for a wide variety of other issues that are serious problems in the legal system but not as familiar to the Slashdot community ("Land of the Lawsuit" sound familiar? Recall the threat to sue "The Onion"? Could that kind of thing happen in an ethical legal system?).

As some of the Founding Fathers predicted, sooner or later collusion between the different elements of government (and, in this case, the legal profession) would threaten to destroy the fundamental freedoms that so many in the free (Northern) states had fought so hard for. We've long since reached that point. Checks and balances can only work to the extent that the different elements that are supposed to be balancing each other are not working together. The question we now confront as a society is: what to do about it?

It's a shame, because corruption at the lower levels of the system is actually quite rare. This is a rather different situation than much of the world: excessive bureaucracy is often found in the USA governmental and legal systems, and an over-adherence to ill-thought-out and overly general rules is regrettably common (often rules that, when applied in particular situations, violate fundamental rights, but understanding that requires that people turn on their brains, which doesn't seem to happen very often: the lessons of Nuremberg about individual responsibility still seem to be difficult for people to grasp more than 50 years later), but at least outright corruption is rare at the lower levels of government (unlike quite a few places around the world).

A right to ethics in government and to ethics in the practice of law is certainly a fundamental right, with everyone in the government and the legal profession being required to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. Strongly asserting that right might be a good place to start if we want to change things ...

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45501475)

There is already enough shadowy money flowing into American politics.

Appreciation society (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45502049)

Bitcoins are rapidly gaining acceptance for payments because companies wanna receive them because they are appreciating rapidly.

But it's okay to accept 'Federal Reserve' notes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45503407)

... which are created out of thin air by JEWS, and aren't backed by anything...

Who Cares? The US Is Irrelevant Now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45504887)

98% of bitcoin transactions are happening outside the US. The US is hostile to bitcoin because it cannot control it. Money is flowing out of the US at a higher rate than ever before in history, and this will continue until there is nothing left in the US but Detroits, exporters of raw materials, and poor people maxing their credit card balances out on frozen chicken nuggets from China and mandatory health insurance. Anybody who cares about what some US agency or company has blocked lately is more interested in just routing around it than in fixing it.

Require all contributions be made in bitcoin (1)

rolofft (256054) | about a year ago | (#45505439)

I read a comment from political scientist Ray Laraja that I thought was interesting: "It doesn't sound like [the FEC commissioners] are going to do this, but if they allow bitcoins to remain anonymous then politicians actually wouldn't know who's giving to them. And so at least in theory, that could cut off this corrupt exchange." I don't know how feasible that really is, but would it improve things if all political contribution were required to be made anonymously via bitcoin.

US Senate Committee meetings 11/18 & 18 disagr (1)

spectrumlogic (2497494) | about a year ago | (#45509887)

While it may have less than the full effect of legislation...I recall a reference to BTC having already been cleared for campaign finance. Here are the links if you want to listen to the meetings (4hrs) to clear this up. My impression was the idea seemed to enliven the interest (and debate) from a politician's viewpoint. 11/18/2013 - http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/beyond-silk-road-potential-risks-threats-and-promises-of-virtual-currencies [senate.gov] 11/19/2013 - 3:30-ish - http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Home.Home [senate.gov] Seemed fairly clear to me the statement of this Senator may be in oppositely indicative. It is also clear that there is a lot of confusion in this arena...but I tend to believe a donation is still a donation...and that donations will not be suppressed. Just my opinion...you be the judge.

Post headline is false (1)

saizai (1178155) | about a year ago | (#45535801)

The FEC did NOT say that PACs can't accept Bitcoin. They pretty much unanimously agreed during the meeting (audio [fec.gov] ) that PACs *can* accept Bitcoin, and the Libertarians and some candidates already were and continue to do so.

They just couldn't decide *how* PACs should accept Bitcoin, and CAF (the requester) didn't ask about accounting standards or the like, so they didn't approve the request. FEC decisions are ternary: yes, no, and nil. This is nil, not no.

Full disclosure: my PAC's comments [makeyourlaws.org] explaining a bunch of problems with the proposal were one of the primary reasons why they didn't rule on it, and we're intending to file a new request in the very near future. (Comments welcome on our draft of a new safe harbor policy [google.com] .)

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